Updated: Jul 25, 2021
6 months after the release of Driver's License, Olivia Rodrigo is still in the driver's seat.
Strawberry ice cream, Taylor Swift, Princess Diaries; Olivia Rodrigo had me thinking she had good taste, that was until 1 minute and 26 seconds into the first track of her debut album. She hates every song she writes!? It might be the only unrelatable lyric.
Like her Swift, Rodrigo appears to have found her niche in songwriting. The self-proclaimed ‘spicy Pisces,’ certainly channeled her sun sign in the stunningly dramatic lyrics which made up the album. Listening to the album felt like reading the diary of so many teenagers who can now romanticise their heartbreak. Each song zeroed in on a teenage emotion so well that singing along was like conducting a sonically cohesive rant!
“I want it to be like messy!” Rodrigo, being the iconic Swifty that she is, screams exactly 13 seconds into her first track, "brutal." Misery never sounded so good. Debuting all her capabilities, Rodrigo opened with a slice of electro-tinged pop-punk, thus birthing Paramore’s Misery Business’s younger sister. The track effortlessly metabolises pent up frustration into contagious serotonin. The first track was narrated by the frustrated teen who loves people they don’t like, that we can all be from time to time. Self-doubt, boredom, exhaustion, the song covers it all. It turns out even the pop stars amongst us are “unrelentlessly upset” and on the verge of crying. This song might be one of the few things I love which I also like.
"Traitor," the second track, mimics the wrath of the first song, but slows down the speed, encasing it in soft organ and beautiful acoustic guitar. “You betrayed me,” she wails in the heartwrenching ballad about an ex who moved on the second that they called it quits. Rodrigo belts out that she knows damn well that if said ex were true, there’s “no damn way” they “could fall in love with somebody that quickly.”
Track three is "Drivers License,2 the lead single which revved up heartbreak love songs. Taking the world by storm, all options of reviewing or analysing this song have been exhausted. Overplayed or not, it still makes me cry and I will never look at red lights or stop signs the same way
"1 Step Forward, 3 Steps Back" pays tribute to Rodrigo's musical inspiration by interpolating "New Year's Day" from Swift's sixth studio album "Reputation." In keeping with the theme of feeling unsatisfactory, Rodrigo asks “Like, am I pretty? Am I fun, boy? /I hate that I give you power over that kind of stuff.” The sucky universal experience of depending your self worth on the teenage boy you’ve somehow fallen for. “Will you walk me to the door or send me home cryin'?” I don’t know if it's heart-warming or heartbreaking that I’m not the only one who asks this question.
You may get "Deja V"u to one of our previous articles when reading about the second single. Laced with specifics, Rodrigo accuses an (allegedly fictional) former flame of recycling her jokes and singing Billy Joel songs to his new lover in this Cruel Summer inspired bop.
Rodrigo channels Avril Lavigne in the pop-punk stunner, "Good 4 U," one of few attempts to balance out the misery. Arguably her best single, many claim she put ‘crack’ in the seductive chorus. It's just a wild explosion of bitterness, like Lorde covering a Dookie B side. She methodically sharpens her rage to quick bursts —sequin encrusted weapons like “It’s like we never even happened, baby/What the f*** is up with that?”
Despite committing arson against her ex in the ‘Good 4 U’ music video, Rodrigo's writing is about more than vengeance. SOUR forces her to confront her own vulnerabilities. On the heartbreaking "enough for you," she laments over fingerpicked guitar, "I wore makeup when we dated 'cause I thought you'd like me more." Rodrigo says as she sings to the ex-lover who left crying, wondering what she did wrong when he found “someone more exciting. Rodrigo admits that “I knew from the start this is exactly how you'd leave.” Stupid, emotional, obsessive… just Rodrigo being the relatable teen chart-topper we already love.
“I hope you’re happy, but don’t be happier.” This line perfectly encompasses Rodrigo’s ability to be shamelessly honest while perfectly describing the petty teenage emotions so many of us can’t put into words. The petty track nine, "happier," is a guilty pleasure coated in a gently tumbling melody. Rodrigo, who has spent most of the album sticking to the ‘girl support girls’ narrative, admits that she is “picking her (her ex’s new girl) apart/ like cutting her down will make you miss my wretched heart.” In typical Swiftian fashion, she validates heartbreak and allows herself and people universally to embrace the culpable feeling that you don’t want your ex to move on fully till you do.
Alt-rock squall à la the Kills came in the form of “Jealousy, Jealousy.” The contemporary lyrics perfectly convey the frustration and envy inspired by our digital surroundings. “I know that beauty is not my lack / But it feels like that weight is on my back,” Rodrigo groans as she reveals the inner turmoil of teenage insecurity in the digital world. The illusion of social media as a highlight reel of your life has sparked a perpetual need to be happier and prettier. This lyric strongly disseminates the controversial reasons that social media is being questioned more and more in our society. “I wanna be you so bad, and I don't even know you” - admit it, you felt that.
Favorite Crime is a perfect myriad of accepting change while clinging to the past. The smeared mascara number has her reminiscing about a boy whom she loved enough to let him treat her badly. She admits to being his “willing accomplice,” claiming she allowed him to "treat her like that" in the agonisingly transparent lyrics. Arguably the strongest track lyrically, Rodrigo tells her ex that “every time a siren sounds/ I wondеr if you're around,” I've never heard a prettier way of telling someone they are toxic. The bittersweet track has Olivia admitting that despite the anguish this boy caused her, she would do it all again. “Well, I hope I was your favorite crime/ 'Cause, baby, you were mine.” Cue the tears… this lyric is so hauntingly beautiful in its simplicity.
The final track on the album - “Hope Ur Ok” - was criticised by many as a last minute attempt at sounding mature, but as an emotional wreck of a Pisces, I disagree. In my opinion, it synchronises perfectly with the album message. Throughout the album, Rodrigo wonders how those around her can be “happy and healthy,” or “so okay,” when things have ended, while she still holds on to those emotions. The entire album focuses on the Piscean trait of holding onto the past and feeling like all those around you move on too quickly. Hope Ur Ok, is another example of Rodrigo thinking back to people in her past and wondering how they are doing. The song speaks out to all those who “were brought into a world where family is merely blood.” The album closer has Rodrigo belting about how proud she is that her middle school friends were created despite their familial problems. It also, arguably, contains her best bridge. “I address the letters to the holes in your butterfly wings,” shivers… every time.
Perhaps the most Swiftian thing of all; Rodrigo proudly curated a record that brought to life all the emotions that women are socially condemned for. Anger, spite, sadness, Jealousy,Jealousy, and bitterness, Rodrigo proudly told the world just how SOUR she was feeling about her breakup despite millions of Twitter trolls telling her to ‘move on.’ In a world where people in entertainment are perceived as artificial, Rodrigo has shown the world just how brutally honest she can be. Lately, she might’ve been a “nervous wreck,” but that’s what we love about her. The truth is we’re all just not cool, not smart people wondering where our teenage dreams are, but at least we have fabulous songs to relate to. I’m LIVing for this album.